Laying the groundwork.
With mountains and rivers in every direction, where should you go first? To school, that’s where. Before heading into unfamiliar terrain, it’s important to be armed with the proper knowledge, skills, and equipment. Make a plan for every adventure, no matter how big or small, and always have a backup plan. Here are some essential outdoor resources to get you started:
Nothing beats a quality guidebook when plotting an excursion. Build a bookshelf collection for your favorite outdoor activities. Here are some of our top picks:
Day Hikes around Bozeman (Day Hikes Books, $16)
Southern Montana Singletrack (Beartooth Publishing, $30)
Bozeman Rock Climbs (High Gravity Press, $25)
Paddling Montana (Falcon Guides, $22)
Flyfisher’s Guide to Montana (Wilderness Adventures Press, $30)
The House of Hyalite (Joe Josephson, $36)
Backcountry Skiing Bozeman and Big Sky (WS Publishing, $40)
Even in the age of information technology, a good ol’ printed map is an invaluable resource. For close-to-home outings, start with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s map, which covers Bozeman’s local trails. It’s available from retailers around town for $3. (For a digital version, download one for free at gvlt.org/trails/trail-map).
Beartooth Publishing is our go-to for detailed topographic maps of southwest Montana, complete with roads, trails, and usage restrictions; order print copies from beartoothpublishing.com or find them in local stores. Our favorite all-around option is Bozeman Area Outdoor Recreation Map, which sells for $14.
For general trip planning throughout the state, pick up a copy of the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer (DeLorme, $24). For more detail, order zoomed-in, area-specific, waterproof maps from MyTopo (mytopo.com), a custom-mapping outfit in Billings. A large-format wall map of southwest Montana from Basin and Range Mapping (basinandrangemap.com) will help you see the big picture and make planning that much easier.
For hunters and anglers, there are only three apps you need on your smartphone or GPS: Montana Fishing Access, Montana Hunting Access, and OnX Hunt. The first two are activity-specific and produced right here in Bozeman by Mountainworks Software (emountainworks.com); the latter is the leading map for property-ownership boundaries and is based in Missoula (onxmaps.com).
You’ll find plenty of information online to learn about local outdoor opportunities. For a collection of general resources, head to outsidebozeman.com/directories. Looking for specific trail descriptions? Check out outsidebozeman.com/trails. For updates and news in the world of mountain biking, including suggested rides, take a look at southwestmontanamba.com. Climbers, head to swmontanaclimbers.org for access information and stewardship projects. If you’re heading for the rivers, check out waterdata.usgs.gov for water levels, bigskyfishing.com for fishing info, and fwp.mt.gov for regulations. In the winter, if you plan on heading into the backcountry, stay updated with avalanche forecasts from mtavalanche.com. For general tips & tricks regarding outdoor safety and skills, check out outsidebozeman.com/skills.
Nothing beats a well-stocked retailer for hands-on gear comparisons, along with free advice from local professionals. Southwest Montana teems with outdoor shops; stop in and hit ‘em up for tips and guidance. Just be sure to buy something while you’re there; Montanans are a friendly, helpful lot, but nobody likes a freeloader.